California Beach and Pier Fishing: Here’s What License You Need

Determining what type of fishing license and which enhancements or report cards you need when fishing in the state of California can be tricky. The last thing you want is to get ticketed for not having the required license when you’re out fishing. In this article, I’ll be breaking down exactly what boxes you need to check in order to fish from the beach, a pier, a jetty a bay etc.

Navigate Using the Table of Contents Below

  1. Who is Required to Have a Fishing License?
  2. Do You Need a License to Fish from a Pier?
  3. Where to Fish for Free
  4. Do You Need a License to Fish from the Beach?
  5. Do You Need an Ocean Enhancement Validation?
  6. How Many Rods Can I Fish from the Beach?
  7. Should You Purchase the Second Rod Validation?
  8. Resident License vs. Nonresident License
  9. Where Do You Get a Fishing License?
  10. Can You Get a 365 Day Fishing License?
  11. Free Fishing Days

Who Needs a Fishing License in the State of California?

Anyone over the age of 16 is required to obtain a California fishing license to fish any and all bodies of water with a few exceptions. Two of the most well-known exceptions are when you’re fishing a public pier/jetty/breakwater and when you’re fishing on one of the two “free fishing days” that the state of California offers each year.

Do You Need a Fishing License to Fish from a Pier?

If fishing a public pier (ocean facing piers), you do NOT need to have a California fishing license. However, if the pier is private, a license may be required.

Where Can I Fish Without a License in California?

Believe it or not, anglers can fish for free without a California fishing license on public piers, jetties, and breakwaters. The following paragraphs in this section are taken directly from the official website of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“When recreationally fishing from a “public pier” in ocean or bay waters, a fishing license is not required. Public piers have a specific definition in Section 1.88 of Title 14, California Code of Regulations (CCR). Public piers must be connected to the shoreline, allow for free, unrestricted public access, and have been built or currently function for the primary purpose of fishing.

Publicly owned jetties and breakwaters may also be “public piers” but, in addition, must form the most seaward protective boundary of an ocean harbor. Jetties and other structures that are not the most seaward boundary are not public piers.

Even though a fishing license is not required on a public pier, all other regulations (including minimum size, bag limits, report cards, and seasons) apply while fishing from a public pier. Additionally, only two rods and lines, handlines, nets, traps, or other appliances used to take crabs may be used per person on a public pier (CCR Title 14, Section 28.65(b)).

The following list and zoomable map include California public piers, jetties, and breakwaters as defined by Section 1.88 of Title 14, CCR.

map of where you can fish in California without a fishing license
Zoomable Map Indicating all Public Piers, Jetties and Breakwaters that Allow Free Fishing without a License

PLEASE NOTE: CDFW cannot guarantee that individual piers, jetties, or breakwaters will be open to the public. The landowner may close these areas for safety, maintenance, or other reasons at any time.

Do You Need a License to Fish from the Beach?

Yes, you will need a California fishing license if you wish to fish from the beach. This is commonly known as fishing from the surf, or surf fishing. Additionally, you will need an Ocean Enhancement Validation. Let’s talk about that one as it seems a large percentage of surf anglers aren’t aware of this requirement.

Do You Need the Ocean Enhancement Validation to Fish from the Beach?

California fishing license ocean enhancement and second rod enhancement
Screenshot of the “Ocean Enhancement Validation” and the “Second Rod Validation”

Yes, in order to legally fish from the shore in California, an angler is required to have the “Ocean Enhancement Validation” in addition to a “Sport Fishing License”.

* The Ocean Enhancement Validation is not required when you’re using a “One-Day Sport Fishing License” or a “Two-Day Sport Fishing License”.

What is the Ocean Enhancement Validation?

As Defined by the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Ocean Enhancement Validation is “required to fish in ocean waters south of Point Arguello (Santa Barbara County). An Ocean Enhancement Validation is not required when fishing under the authority of a One or Two-Day Sport Fishing License.”

How Many Rods Can I Fish from the Beach?

Any number of hooks and lines may be used to take finfish in all ocean waters and bays except in San Francisco and San Pablo bays between the Golden Gate Bridge and the west Carquinez Bridge, where you may only use one line with no more than three hooks. Species-specific gear restrictions (such as for rockfish, lingcod and salmon) do apply when fishing from the shore.

* As noted earlier, if fishing from a public pier, jetty, or breakwater, only 2 rods per angler may be used.

Do I Need the Second Rod Validation for Surf Fishing?

No. As mentioned above, you can fish as many rods as you’d like to from the beach (when fishing with a sport fishing license and an ocean enhancement validation). The second rod validation is meant for inland waters.

What is the Second Rod Validation and What Does it Do?

The Second Rod Validation “allows a person to fish with two rods or lines in inland waters, except for waters in which only artificial lures or barbless hooks may be used.”

Where Do You Purchase a California Fishing License?

You may purchase your fishing license, applicable report cards, enhancements, etc., online at the official website of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife or at any license agent or at the CDFW License Sales Office.

Preferred Methods of Buying a Fishing License

The easiest way to buy a fishing license is to purchase one online at or to find a local retailer near you like Big 5, Turners, a local tackle shop, Walmart etc.

Resident Sport Fishing License vs. Nonresident Sport Fishing License

Resident Sport Fishing Licenses are less expensive than Nonresident Sport Fishing Licenses for a few reasons (determined by the Department of Fish and Wildlife).

What Qualifies One as a Resident?

A resident is any person who has resided continuously in the State of California for six months or more immediately prior to the date of their application for a license or permit, any person on active military duty with the Armed Forces of the United States or auxiliary branch thereof, or any person enrolled in the Job Corps.

Can You Get a 365 Day Fishing License?

No. The current California fishing license is valid for one full calendar year, regardless of when you purchase it.

In the fall of 2021, a bill was passed, allowing the Director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife to change the California Fishing License to a 365 day fishing license (12 Consecutive Months) from the current “calendar year” license.

Although the bill was passed, the changes have not been made at the time of this publishing.

When Are California’s “Free Fishing Days”?

July 2nd and September 3rd (Saturdays) are the two free fishing days for California anglers in 2022.

This allows for new anglers to get a taste of the types of fishing that California offers without spending a dime on licensing. If you’re thinking about picking up fishing as a hobby, be sure to take advantage of the free fishing days.

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